MIAMI – After years of discussion, Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport has changed its IATA code from TSE to NQZ. This change occurred officially on June 8, 2020, and opens doors for other airports to follow.

The new IATA code better reflects the Airport’s current status. The old code TSE was created when the capital city was still called Tselinograd and part of the Soviet Union.

The change comes several weeks before international travel is supposed to restart, with Air Astana beginning flights on June 20.

Name Changes not Just for Airports


Nur-Sultan went through several other name changes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Directly after, the original name of Akmola was restored. In 1998, the capital of Kazakhstan was officially moved to Akmola, which also brought a name change to Astana.

The first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, stepped down in March 2019. Several days later, Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan in his honor.

What’s in a Name?


To better reflect the city and the progress made since 1991, Kazakhstan was in talks with IATA for years about a change of the airport code. As there was no precedent for this type of change, the rules and regulations had to be written.

The new code NQZ can be broken down into two parts, N for Nur-Sultan, and QZ for Qazaqstan as written in the new latin alphabet.

Having been successful in changing the IATA code for NQZ, the Kazakhstan government has indicated that they want to change several other airport codes.

Changes not Just For Airports


The aviation sector in Kazakhstan has undergone renewal in the last years. The flag carrier, Air Astana, has been working on modernizing its fleet by adding Airbus A321LR, Embraer E190-E2, Airbus A320neo, Airbus A321neo, and have Boeing 787s on order.

Outside of the airlines, in August 2019, step 68 of the Nation Plan “100 specific steps,” was achieved: the «Aviation Administration of Kazakhstan»  JSC was formed. This new regulator was created to bring technical control and aviation safety levels in line with international requirements.